When you ask Australia’s leading chefs for their pick of the little black dress of the culinary world, it seems there are many classic dishes that will never go out of fashion, writes ANTHONY HUCKSTEP.
These days you’re more likely to see a list of ingredients on a menu than a named dish, but there are some old favourites that just never go out of fashion.we’re looking at you chicken schnitzel, prawn cocktail and pavlova. Chef Jo Barrett of Oakridge in the Yarra Valley backs the schnitty. “At the pub or dressed up as chicken leg terrine, crumbed, fried and served with a purée – it’s still crumbed chicken and I love it. It’s the only thing that keeps me a carnivore and makes me feel guilty”.
Barrett, one of Australia’s best pastry chefs, also has a sweet tooth and couldn’t live without lemon tart. “It’s satisfying to eat and ticks all the acidity, sweet, creamy, crisp and flavour notes we all love,” she says. “It has been reinvented and deconstructed, but continues to be rock solid just the way it was meant to be, as a tart. For chefs, there’s nothing to hide behind – its deliciousness is in its simplicity and precision.”
Maha restaurant’s Shane Delia has a soft spot for an Italian classic. “I love going to Italian restaurants and for me a simple gnocchi fritto and prosciutto is pretty hard to beat,” says Delia. “It gets me every time.”
Delicious. senior editor Matt Preston looks to the boot, too, for a dish he believes stands the test of time.
“Nothing is sacrosanct in fancy finediners,” says Preston, “but I can’t see a day when the Margherita pizza ever disappears. It’s the classic simplicity of great puffy and slightly elastic dough, bright tomato sauce that’s loaded with natural sweetness and acidity and the milky mozzarella that ensures that it’s a keeper.”
A couple of surely enduring classics are the picks of chef Zac Nicholson of Melbourne’s new Hazel restaurant. “Oysters and steak tartare are things I’d never like to see come off the menu,” he says. “Everyone does a version of tartare now and I love it, and nothing on the planet beats a freshly shucked oyster. It’s the perfect start to a meal.”
Three Blue Ducks chef and co-owner Darren Robertson has a list of oldschool favourites that he has to order whenever he sees them on a menu. “There’s a few dishes I’ve always loved and am really enjoying their rebirth on menus,” he says. “I’m a sucker for a chicken-liver parfait, bone marrow on toast or a classic terrine.all that old-school stuff is amazing and when executed well they never let you down,” he says.
“I feel the same way about lemon tarts and crumbles.there’s something so deeply satisfying about those homestyle puddings.the simplicity of them, like a tarte Tatin – I want one right now just thinking about it.”
From the Rockpool Bar and Grill Sydney, chef Corey Costello can’t do without a classic Australian pub staple. “Fried calamari is something I never get tired of,” he says. “It’s very seldom you put a plate of it down on a table and it doesn’t get devoured.
“Likewise a Caprese salad. If the table is ordering and someone throws it in at the end of the order no one complains about too much food.”
Clayton Wells of Automata is with him. “I just love a Caprese salad made with really good tomatoes, olive oil and fresh milky cheese. It’s simple but you can’t beat it.”
It’s bistecca, or T-bone, with all the trimmings and shared among friends that makes O Tama Carey, chef-owner of Lankan Filling Station in Darlinghurst, the happiest. “I had one last night at Fratelli Paradiso with roast potatoes and a green salad and it was just so good,” she says. “It does rely on a quality piece of meat and someone to be able to cook it properly, but when you get that right, a beautiful piece of beef is hard to beat.”
Delicious. contributor Colin Fassnidge agrees. He recalls his early days in the kitchen when every chef worth their salt had a version of steak frites. “Steak frites with a café de Paris butter for me is the best dish and that will never go out of fashion,” says Fassnidge.
“It’s just great bistro food,with no frills and full of flavour. It’s a simple dish. It’s not simple to get right,but,boy,when someone nails it, there’s nothing better.
“A beautifully cooked piece of beef, and chips that just soak up all the juices from the sauce. It reminds me of my early cooking days and I just love it,” he says.
From chicken schnitzel and beef tartare to a good old-fashioned lemon tart, it seems when you ask our leading chefs that the classics will always be in fashion.
From fruit crumbles to all manner of tartares, the delicious. site is chocker with classic dishes. Head to delicious.com.au.
NEVER GETS OLD Monty Koludrovic puts a modern spin on a classic with his prawn cocktail endive cups (see the recipe at delicious.com.au.)